The Pushkin Prizes began when some of Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin's descendants, together with lovers of his work, gathered together in 1987 to mark the 150th anniversary of his death.
Lady Butter, inspired to perpetuate her ancestor's memory in a unique and appropriate way, launched the creative writing competition as a pilot project in Scottish secondary schools in Tayside in 1988. The project was such a success that in 1992 a charitable trust was established and since then the opportunity has expanded to include every secondary school in Scotland as well as English language specialist schools in and around Pushkin's home town of St Petersburg.
3rd Form (Year 8) Loretto pupil, Ushika submitted her creative writing folio to the Pushkin board in December, and has just received the news that she is one of the ten winners from Scotland.
Many congratulations to Ushika for winning such a prestigious competition. She will enjoy a week away at Moniack Mhor Writers' Centre near Inverness with the other winners in April, where she will be tutored by professional writers.
We look forward to hearing how she gets on and reading her new work!
Below are three pieces of work from Ushika’s creative writing folio;
Escape Through the Blossom Tree
Chikako moved through the moonlight. She stood regal, staring ahead, before stooping below the soft tree and into the small hut beside the lake. She sang her songtale, her YinWenJi in her age-old tongue and her blue-black hair fluttered in the warm breeze. Blossom floated around without a care in the world.
Return to the world, and play your part,
Let the strong wind guide you,
Look out for the sins of man,
Guide me, Chikako as I search,
For new, for old treasures untold,
Ferocious beasts and the timid ceased,
Come and reborn yourself.
Spring blooms and opens,
Summer sings in the glowing warmth,
Autumn beams in tired wisdom,
And Winter lays to rest.
Chikako opened her eyes. The sun awoke and began to rise from its bed, casting oranges and pinks across the night land. She glanced behind nervously. Her beloved blossom tree was stretching its powers – her powers – to the uttermost limit. It began to shine. Chikako stepped towards it in wonder. Her gold eyes shone, reflecting the Arnanian characters that whirled off the branches of her tree.
Chikako broke her gaze. All her life, just like every other Arnane, her experience had been limited to the sight of very little. Despite rebirth to Earth upon death, the wipe of memory erased all her experiences and placed her at the beginning of the cycle.
Chenhao, a distant sky island, constantly accumulated Kwai spirits, the dead of pure Earthzhao, non-Arnanians. They entered the only portal out of Earth, the Qi Tree. The Arnane were forced centuries ago as babies to Chenhao, then transferred to individual islands to increase their powers. It took centuries to gather enough power to enchant Denarii. Then they would be born onto Earth as a human, forgetting all knowledge of Arnanian life. After death on Earth, the process would restart as they entered the Qi tree – again unknowing of what awaits.
“Island… the only place I know.” These scathing words echoed bitterly in her head. Chikako put her head on her knees, and watched the moon as it made its way down, saying goodbye as it disappeared for another day.
Island was Chikako’s home. Island was the only place Chikako knew, with its lake and endless waterfall, blossom tree, hut and green grass. Surrounding her was endless sky, enchanted so that she couldn’t escape through falling. Gentle pink and white clouds floated around the island and into the infinite distance.
As the sun reached midway across the sky again, Chikako stood up, and headed into her hut. Inside, her tiny bedchamber, kitchen and enchanting room.
She spooned her daily Krencharii into her bowl. She drank it up, and dressed into her Lais, her magic robes. Her tree was at full strength now, and so permitted Chikako to continue.
O Stones, rivers and mountains,
I come to gain your sight,
Let me reach my power,
Or else feel my plight.
She chanted faintly, she shivered. Denarii reached out its branches, and the pale pink petals tinted gold. Chikako stretched her arms, and all her Arnane knowledge seeped through her fingertips and into the tree. Qi exploded in sparkling, glittering showers. Chikako scooped up the pure magic and stuffed it in her pouch. She held out her arms and offered her magic pouch to the wind spirits.
I complete my daily ritual,
And offer you my gains,
Grant me my deserved,
And magic through my veins.
Chikako finished her song, and the wind spirits accepted her pouch. Chikako watched intently as her tree grew ever bigger, if only a tiny bit.
Yearning or contentment?
Sadness of leaving the
I return to the land of music
that sings its peace into my bones.
beside the water’s edge.
Fish dart away
sensing my presence as danger.
They can’t comprehend –
I bring my own remembered peace.
It’s a treacherous thing
night time is
a period of
within my solitude
Seldom do I venture
only so far.
They say we are wise.
Simply keen observers
of parallel worlds